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How to make salmon candy
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4.77 from 47 votes

Smoked Salmon Candy

This is traditionally done with salmon in Alaska, usually chinook, coho, sockeye or chum salmon. But any salmon will work for this recipe, as will fish like mackinaw (lake trout), Dolly Varden, big rainbows or cutthroats, char or really any large, fatty fish you can cut into strips. I bet tuna belly would be good for this.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time4 hrs
Total Time5 hrs
Course: Cured Meat, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: fish, salmon, smoked foods, trout
Servings: 25
Calories: 164kcal
Author: Hank Shaw


  • 5 pounds skin-on salmon pieces, cut into 1- to 2-inch thick strips
  • 1 pound kosher salt
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1 cup maple syrup or birch syrup


  • Mix the salt and brown sugar together. Find a lidded container large enough to hold the salmon; a big tupperware works well. Lay down a layer of the salt/sugar mixture about 1/4 inch deep. Put a layer of salmon down on this, skin side up. Cover the salmon with more salt/sugar mixture. If you need a second layer of salmon, make sure the layer of salt and sugar between them is thick enough so that the pieces of salmon are not touching. Basically you are burying the salmon in salt and sugar. Cover and let cure in the fridge at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 hours. The longer the cure the saltier it will be; I cure for 2 hours.
  • Remove the salmon from the cure, which will get wet, and briefly rinse the fish under cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel and set the salmon on a drying rack skin side down. Let this dry in a breezy place for 2 hours, or in the fridge, uncovered, overnight. I put the racks under a ceiling fan near an open window with another fan blowing at the fish from the side. You are doing this to form a pellicle on the salmon, which helps it smoke properly. Don't skip this step!
  • Traditionally salmon candy is cold smoked for several days. If you can do this, go for it. Regardless, you want to bring the temperature up gradually over the course of an hour or so and let it sit at around 165°F to 200°F for at least 3 hours, and up to 6 hours if you like your salmon candy harder and smokier.
  • Every 90 minutes to 2 hours, paint the salmon with the maple syrup. This also helps to remove any albumen -- the icky white stuff -- that can form between the fish flakes if your smoker gets a little too hot too fast.
  • When the salmon looks good and lacquered, typically about 3 to 4 hours, remove it to the drying racks again and paint it one last time with the maple syrup. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing. Salmon candy will last a week in the fridge, longer if vacuum sealed. It freezes well, too.


Smoke likes Fat. If you did not know, adheres better to fat than lean meat, so bellies and collars are better for this.
Vary the thickness. Very thin strips will dry harder and be more like jerky... and will keep longer. I eat mine fairly quickly, so I leave the strips thicker, at about 2 inches wide.


Calories: 164kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 41mg | Potassium: 474mg | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 36IU | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg